Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday expressed hope for a renewal of peace talks with Israel and concern that the economic crisis in the Palestinian territories would deepen if it was not resolved soon. "We expect the new Israeli government to enter into talks with us, as we are its partner and believe in a peaceful resolution," the ITAR-Tass and RIA-Novosti news agencies quoted Abbas as saying during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Abbas said he had come to Russia to discuss ways to revive dialogue with Israel . Such a prospect is slim. Contacts between the two sides have become even more infrequent since the moderate Palestinian leader's rivals in the militant Hamas gained control of the government in January elections. "The only way is talks that would lead to a resolution on the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and at which a solution would be found that satisfies both sides and puts an end to unresolved problems," Abbas said, according to the Russian news agencies.
He and Putin were meeting at the Russian president's residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi . Israel rules out negotiations as long as Hamas remains opposed to the Jewish state's existence and refuses to disarm. Putin, who has sought to boost Russia 's Mideast role, called Russia "a friend of the Palestinian people" in televised comments and praised Abbas for "big efforts to normalize the atmosphere in the Palestinian territories."
A Kremlin official said before the meeting that Putin and Abbas would also discuss aid to the Palestinians. The European Union and the United States , which both list Hamas as a terrorist organization, halted direct aid to the Palestinian government after Hamas' election victory, contributing to a serious financial crisis in the West Bank and Gaza .
The Kremlin official said that Russia , which transferred US$10 million ( 8 million) to an account controlled by Abbas earlier this month, "intends to continue to help the Palestinian Authority in establishing a normal life for the Palestinian people."
Abbas thanked Putin for the aid, and said he hoped the Palestinian leadership could swiftly end the "serious economic crisis" its people are suffering. "Otherwise, extremely difficult conditions await us," RIA-Novosti quoted him as saying. The decision to send the aid underlined Moscow 's conviction that the Palestinian government should not be isolated after Hamas took office.
The European Union, the United States , Russia and the United Nations the group of world powers involved in Mideast negotiations decided last week to try to set up a temporary trust fund to funnel aid directly to the Palestinian people while bypassing the Hamas government. But details of how that plan would work are still being worked out.
On reviving peace efforts, Abbas said the "road map" peace plan was "the main if not the only path to a resolution," the Russian news agencies reported. Neither side has taken steps to implement the plan, which envisions an independent Palestinian state. The plan, which had strong international backing, stalled shortly after its launch in June 2003. Abbas called on Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to restart talks. "I am asking Olmert again to sit down at the negotiating table for the sake of our children and grandchildren," he said in an interview with the daily Izvestia, reports the AP, reports the AP.
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